I found this post not terribly long ago; I just didn’t have the chance to blog about it until now. It’s a little something I found on the Orbit and it deals with low wage jobs: Not Just Flipping Burgers is the title. Go and give it a read, because the points that are made are excellent.
Those who disparage low wage workers don’t know about the aspects of those jobs that never appear on the job descriptions. They don’t know about the hotel housekeepers who are constantly sexually harassed by guests. They don’t know that the night auditor at that same hotel has to try to get the passed out drunk guest up off the hallway floor almost every night. They never realize that the cashier at the grocery store has to listen to that guy with no boundaries tell his entire life story every week, and she has to smile while he does it and look like she cares the whole time because her boss is watching.
I was a cashier at Walmart for over a decade. As to how I escaped with even a shred of sanity intact, I do not know. I had a woman ask me straight out if I ever hated my children so much that I wished I would “never see them again”. I had no idea what to even say when I heard this. I had a customer slip behind my back and leave a flower at the register where I was working; never mind that I was engaged to Prime. One poor cashier had a customer who kept jerking his cash out of her hand while saying, “You want it, you whore?” while he was paying. One of the people greeters had to deal with a man who kept stepping closer and stroking her arm as he talked; when she tried to get away from the guy, he just kept moving closer. One night, we had a customer who said he was going to jump off a bridge; it took a CSM and several managers to restrain him until we could get the police to the building.
Then there was the shooting at my store and we all had to deal with the constant “jokes” that customers made about it. I had one woman who got completely pissed at me because I didn’t laugh at her “Is it safe to go in your liquor store now?” comment, claiming that I needed a sense of humor. I managed to tell her–in as polite a way as possible–that I had been working on the day the shooting had occurred and was still dealing with the aftermath.
I’m not even joking here. Simply smiling at certain customers will net you a life story or worse.
They don’t have to hear “I guess it’s free then!” every single time an item doesn’t scan. Every time. All day. All week. All year. They don’t have to try desperately not to scream in the face of the next person who says it, and laugh like the joke is clever.
Every. Single. DAY. I heard this every damn day. I got sick of it quickly. I also got extremely tired of having customers assume that somehow, I hadn’t been a cashier for all that long when I would refuse to take their bad checks or expired coupons. Or how I got cursed at when every open register had a line five people deep and the customer I was helping had to be at work in five minutes. Or how I was the one at fault for the store not having the hot toy of the Christmas season because “It was here two weeks ago!”
The person who says “minimum wage is supposed to be for high school students and low-skill workers” doesn’t understand the skill it takes to carefully de-escalate the customer who throws a full-blast tantrum because he has just been told “no.”
They also don’t have to deal with the customers who go straight to management in order to get free items and watch as management agrees with the customer. They don’t have to deal with people trying to blatantly steal from a self check-out and watch as the customer gets pissed that they were caught in the act. They don’t have to deal with being locked for eight hours in a building with a high ceiling and screaming children. They don’t have to deal with grown adults who throw merchandise at them because the store won’t Ad Match a “Buy One, Get One Free” offer. They don’t have to deal with the three-year-old who knocks merchandise off the shelf and the three-year-old’s mother who screams, “MY CHILD CAN DO WHATEVER S/HE WANTS!” They don’t have to deal with people who bring in ads from two or three years ago in order to rip off the store. They don’t have to deal with the customer who gets irritated and spits in someone’s face because they can’t return a DVD without a receipt. They don’t have to deal with the customer who runs to management and tattles that the cashier didn’t speak to them when the customer had a cell phone glued to his/her ear. They don’t have to deal with Black Friday or Brown Thursday and the rudeness and pettiness that goes along with it.
In other words, they don’t have to deal with some of the worst behaviors seen in humanity, ones that fall juuuust a bit short of ‘crimes against’. I have. Oh boy, I have.
To say that there are “no skills” in that line of work isn’t true. In my years at Walmart, I learned the best way to run the self-checks. I learned how to watch a customer and how to gauge his or her mood. I learned how to look slightly “pleasant”, as management there would penalize us for not smiling enough. I learned how to smooth over potentially bruised feelings when we ran out of medium bags due to management’s incompetence. My bagging technique? Self-taught. I was probably the best bagger they had in the place, no joke.
In other words, my skills were all self-taught but they were skills nevertheless. But people who denigrate those who work in jobs like mine don’t understand that. To them, it’s simple, brainless work that anyone can do; there are no skills involved so why should that lowly cashier get a decent paycheck?
Maybe because everyone deserves a chance to eat and have a decent roof over their heads, no matter what their occupation may be. It’s just a thought.